Even as they've expanded in recent years, the laws protecting pregnant women at work are patchwork and continue to leave out a lot of women, Gedmark said. Discriminating against pregnant women is clearly illegal. But whether a business has to accommodate pregnant women, by giving them a stool to sit on or allowing them more water breaks, remains unclear. Different states have different standards for what kinds of accommodations pregnant workers are legally entitled to receive. Furthermore, the definition of what can be considered a pregnancy-related disability, and therefore requires accommodations, remains elusive among lawmakers on the federal level, as well as in states that lack clear protections.
Blogger, podcast host and writer Emma Gannon has a theory. She thinks women are going through a collective confidence crisis. “We’ve got all the tools, we’ve got a wi-fi connection, we’ve got all of these inspirational people around us, we’re seeing what other people are doing on social media all the time. But yet there’s something standing in our way.” She says three main challenges hold them back: time, money and confidence. “I think if we can conquer those we’ll be starting more businesses.”
"Probably the biggest burden is child care," Bovino told CNBC. While she credits men today with helping more, "women (still) do the lion's share of child care and elder care as well." Maternity and family leave also impacts the decision for women to rejoin the workforce, she added. Bovino said the S&P study found that 39 percent of mothers took "a lot of time out of the workforce when they have children, and 25% don't come back." Her research found 24 percent of fathers take significant time off for child or family care.
Many of the initiatives to try to attract and retain female staff have been launched in the past few years and some private equity firms have only recently started to track the proportion of women in the workforce.Pressure is growing on employers in the financial services industry to hire more women and reduce the pay gap between male and female workers, as investors seek more diversity of views in the hope that this will boost returns.
As a matter of justice we obviously owe equal pay for equal work. As a matter of return on human capital investment, however, it is clear that the marketplace won’t pay for work experience keeping a home. It is also clear that child bearing and rearing cuts into career development for women trying to balance the two.
The lack of accommodation for women’s caregiving responsibilities is one of the reasons they are not promoted into leadership. Colleagues may assume, without verification, that caregivers need certain costly accommodations or are simply unavailable (“Let’s not ask her to do this because she is breastfeeding.”) The absence of a field-wide discussion on the actual adjustments necessary is leading to career stagnation among talented and ambitious professionals and to a wide gender imbalance in leadership.
The credit risk of women-owned firms that are six or more years old are indistinguishable from their male counterparts, according to Small Business Credit Survey Report on Women-Owned Firms. The under-capitalization of women-owned firms places significant limits on their growth. Women’s activism to correct this injustice has been building, as evidenced by the rising tide of financing options for women entrepreneurs. Now, the #MeToo movement could bring a tidal wave of funding as women are inspired to stand up and speak out against sexism.